Home Local Maryland Government Announcement Originally published March 11, 2011


Legislation would restrict polluting septic systems on new, major subdivisions in Maryland

ANNAPOLIS, MD (March 11, 2011) – Just days after wading into a polluted lake in Goldsboro to demonstrate the damage that pollution from failing septic systems can have on our ecosystem, Governor Martin O'Malley today testified before the House Environmental Matters Committee and the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee in support of restricting septic systems on new, major subdivisions in Maryland.

“By turning a blind eye to the proliferation of septic McMansions, as a State we are in essence feeding donuts to a patient with a heart condition,” said Governor O’Malley. “Septic systems, by their very design, are intended to leak sewage into our Bay and into our water tables. Because they require large lots, their proliferation has the effect of carving up our agricultural and rural land.”

He added, “With the reforms we are proposing, we don’t seek to ban these systems or force homeowners to convert their existing systems. Rather, we aim to rationally curtail their expansion.”

In Governor O’Malley’s presentation before each committee today, he urged committee members not to jeopardize the progress we’ve made together on restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

Currently, approximately 411,000 Maryland households are on septic systems. If nothing is done, total nitrogen load from septic systems will increase by 36 percent over the next 25 years. Nitrogen is the most damaging pollutant in the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland's waterways. To comply with the EPA’s Bay “pollution diet” Maryland must reduce nitrogen 21 percent by 2020.

The Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2011 (HB 1107/SB 846), as amended, does the following:

* Allow new residential minor subdivisions (development on four or fewer new lots, five lots total) to use individual on-site septic systems if they use nitrogen removal technology;
* Prohibit new residential major subdivisions (five or more new lots) from using on-site septic systems - but has options: new residential major subdivisions (five or more new lots) can use shared or multi-use sewerage systems (above ground discharge) or connect to existing sewer; and
* As a proposed amendment to the bill, allow a farm family to create the individual four lots over time so they wouldn't have to subdivide all four at once.

Failing septic systems can present an imminent threat to public health and to safe drinking water. There is potential for human contact with sewage through a system that directly discharges to the ground or to surface water, backs up into a building, or contaminates drinking water supplies, such as a home drinking well.